Tories call for sponsored tube lines

The Conservative Party has called on Transport for London to sign sponsorship deals with major brands to offset passenger fare rises and fund new infrastructure developments.

London Underground Virgin Euston mock up
How a sponsored tube station might look.

The proposal, which was published in a report by The Conservative Party group that sits on the London Assembly, claims sponsorship deals worth £136m could freeze fares for a year, while £204m would cap fare rises at inflation levels for the next three years. Average fares on London transport increased 4.3 per cent this year.

The “Untapped resource: bearing down on fares through sponsorship” report suggests stations could be renamed – offering examples such as Burberry by Bond Street , Virgin Euston, Knightsbridge, home of Harrods and Nike at Oxford Circus  – or even entire lines, as per other transport networks in Madrid, Dubai and New York.

The report’s author and Conservative London Assembly member, Gareth Bacon, says TfL is still “behind the curve” compared with other industries and countries.

An online poll of 531 Londoners, conducted by Censuswide for Greater London Authority Conservatives, found three quarters (74 per cent) of respondents agreed TfL should expand its use of sponsorship across public transport in London and use the money generated to freeze or cut fares. Only 6 per cent of respondents disagreed.

It also found long-term (five to 10-year) deals were more attractive to the public than short-term deals.

TfL claims it has already secured £3.4bn in commercial revenue for the coming years, having already signed sponsorship deals such as the Barclays “Boris Bike” cycle hire scheme and the £36m Emirates cable car sponsorship.

The transport network is currently drafting a new sponsorship strategy which will set out what aspects of TfL’s operations and services would be appropriate for sponsorship.

On tube station sponsorship, TfL’s position is that “the Tube map is an iconic brand and to clutter it up with other people’s brands excessively would not be appropriate”. 

TfL’s recently appointed commercial development director has previously said he is “instinctively uncomfortable” with renaming tube stations that are “long cherished” by Londoners. 

Deputy chair of TfL Daniel Moylan has argued: “If you take most stations, Vodafone for Oxford Circus or something, I just ask you to accept that my judgement and the Mayor’s judgement is that is going too far…I don’t see us having a Sainsbury’s Northern Line or whatever. I don’t think Londoners would find that [acceptable].”

Other arguments against station sponsorship include public acceptability and the potential damage to the TfL brand. In 2010 there was widespread criticism when TfL signed a deal with payday lender Wonga to sponsor free New Year’s Eve travel, for example.

Any change to TfL’s sponsorship policy would need to be agreed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has also previously ruled out renaming stations.

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